The Pistons bought their very own D-League team this offseason, moving the Springfield Armor to Grand Rapids and making it their sole affiliate. David Mayo has been doing a great job covering the deal from the start, and reported on Stan Van Gundy's thoughts on where the D-League will fit into the franchise's overall plans.
"If you get that coach integrated with what you're doing, and you're playing the same system and everything else, I think that D-League thing can be very, very valuable. And we'll take the hiring of that coach as a very big part of our staff because I think it can be that valuable," Van Gundy said.
San Antonio and Houston have shown the value of having a system in place that permeates all the way to the D-League, making exclusive control over the D-League team that much more valuable. Each of the team has a long list of players who have gone from the D-League to reliable rotation players for their NBA team, including Danny Green for the Spurs and Patrick Beverly for the Rockets.
It's a successful model used by some of the league's most progressive teams, and great to see the Pistons following suit.
This organizational stability and holistic philosophy is something that the Pistons have lacked for years under Joe Dumars' watch. Coaches were tasked with implementing his vision and, with coaches turning over every other year, none had the opportunity to create a system that had anything resembling collaboration between the folks picking the players and those putting them on the court. This gap was painfully clear as the talent dropped in 2008 and the coaching turnover increased.
Simply handing Van Gundy the keys to the franchise was a clear step in the right direction in this front, but it sounds like Stan is making the most of the opportunity to ensure that everyone is on the same page - even the NBA's traditionally undervalued minor league.
An additional perk that Van Gundy pointed out was Grand Rapids' proximity to Detroit, that a player could practice with the Pistons and still play a D-League game in the same day. This could be huge for youngsters who might not have a rotation spot in place on opening day, like Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva, or whoever the Pistons take in the draft later this month.
Both Mitchell and Siva gained D-League experience last season, and Siva used it to turn around a rough start to his NBA career. In 10 games in Fort Wayne, Siva averaged 13 points per game along with 50 percent three point shooting on 4.4 attempts per game, 4.6 assists, and 2 steals. He returned to the Pistons looking like a new man. Mitchell also put up a respectable 7.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. The ability for these guys to get significant in-game experience in a Van Gundy system while also giving the coach a chance to see their progress day-to-day could prove to be a great advantage.
The way Van Gundy put it, "Your own D-League team is one thing, but your own D-League team two hours away is a whole other deal."
Van Gundy said that when he's interviewing for his own coaching staff, he's doing so with a potential D-League coach in mind - so whoever is picked will very much be a guy who fits his mold and philosophy. There's no saying how much credibility there are to these names, but Joe Dexter of Pistons Palace offered some interesting suggestions.